With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
“If we can harness the latent power of markets ... to a higher purpose than maximizing shareholder value, we can unleash one of the most powerful manmade forces ever created,” Jay Coen Gilbert said at the 2016 Net Impact conference in Philadelphia.
Gilbert co-founded B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corp certification. As B Corporations, firms commit to a rigorous set of standards. Nearly 2,000 companies (including TriplePundit) are now B Corp certified. An additional 50,000 used the B Impact Assessment, a free tool provided by B Lab, to measure their impact and make improvements.
Those who come away from the assessment as B Corps rank among the highest in their industries for social and environmental sustainability. But what may surprise some in the business community is that B Corps often outshine their peers financially as well. Read on to learn more about 12 B Corps taking their industries by storm.
And disproving the concept that sustainability kills business, Patagonia managed to boost sales while staying true to its roots. Its B Impact Assessment score is a seriously impressive 151 out of 200, the highest on our list, compared to a median score of 55 for all companies. The company is also a registered benefit corporation in California.
It's that dedication to its core brand that keeps customers coming back. And Patagonia arguably outdid itself on Black Friday by donating all sales revenue to charity. The company sold a record $10 million in merchandise, all of which will go to grassroots environmental groups.
It's tough to talk about sustainable fashion without mentioning Eileen Fisher. The company is targeting 100 percent sustainability with its 2020 goals, and focuses on all aspects of its practices: It uses organic and sustainable fabrics, manufactures in the U.S. or through fair trade supply chains, and has a specific focus on human rights.
And, with an emphasis on simple basics and staying true to its brand, the company developed a loyal following. It's now worth over $400 million, Fortune reported. Founder Eileen Fisher, who owns 65 percent of the company (her employees own the rest), also amassed a personal fortune of over $200 million.
And Warby Parker did all of this while giving a pair of glasses away for each one it sold. One of the pioneers in the one-for-one business model, the company has distributed over 2 million pairs of glasses to date. Its B Impact score is also an impressive 112.
The company raised $12 million in a Series-A financing round last year, counting supermodel Karlie Kloss among the investors. In its coverage of the funding round, Fortune labeled Reformation a "cult favorite," and we're inclined to agree. Despite having only four stores, the company counts it-girls like Kloss, Rihanna and Taylor Swift among its fans -- helping it clear $25 million in revenue in 2014.
Method launched in 2001 with a few natural home cleaning sprays. By the following year, its products were on the shelves in Target stores nationwide.
In 2012, it rocked the packaged goods industry again by creating a soap bottle made almost entirely from recovered ocean trash. The same year, with revenues topping $100 million, it merged with green Belgian company Ecover for an undisclosed sum. Family-owned Ecover claims the merger created the world's largest green cleaning company, with revenue “north of $300 million,” reports Fidelum Partners.
And while Seventh Generation ran into some legal trouble for its 'natural' labeling, which a judge ruled misled consumers, its B Impact score is an impressive 125 -- indicating most of its green claims are spot on.
Like Seventh Generation, Honest found itself in court over labeling and ingredients claims. The fact that it's sustainable enough to be a B Corp -- with a respectable 107 B Impact score -- should give customers some peace of mind. But eco-minded companies are wise to take notice of such lawsuits and begin labeling products more accurately, or else risk serious damage to their reputations and possible loss in market share.
Some worried that Ben & Jerry's would lose its sustainability gusto after being acquired by Unilever in 2000. But it didn't work out that way. The company maintains an independent board that has the authority to support and defend its social mission, CEO Jostein Solheim told 3p.
Ben & Jerry's became a B Corp in 2012 and is still leading the charge socially -- launching flavors to commemorate everything from voting rights to racial equality. And its bottom line is thriving under the Unilever umbrella, more than tripling revenue in 15 years, the New York Times reported.
New Belgium diverts 99.9 percent of its waste from landfills and reduced water use per barrel of beer to 3.5:1 (averages range from 6:1 to 10:1). Its B Impact Assessment score is also the second highest on our list at 142.
But the 100 percent employee-owned company didn't sacrifice growth to stay sustainable. It counts itself as America's fourth-largest craft beer brewer and its eighth-largest brewery overall.
Plum Organics is a certified B Corp and benefit corporation. The purveyor of nutritious, organic baby food was purchased by Campbell Soup Co. in 2013. Although the buy made some shoppers nervous, Plum mantained autonomy and said the deal would strengthen the sustainability of both companies.
Campbell’s stock price continued to climb after the acquisition. And Plum was able to “reach more families across the country,” which was its ultimate goal, co-founder Neil Grimmer told 3p.
While grossing close to $2 billion, the peer-to-peer e-commerce company maintained an impressive B Impact score of 127 during its first year as a public company. Not too shabby.
Image credits: 1) Net Impact; 2) Eileen Fisher; 3) Method; 4) Ben & Jerry's; 5) Plum Organics
Mary Mazzoni has reported on sustainability in business for over a decade and now serves as managing editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of brands and organizations on sustainability storytelling. Along with 3p, Mary's recent work can be found in publications like Conscious Company, Salon and Vice's Motherboard. She also works with nonprofits on media projects, including the women's entrepreneurship coaching organization Street Business School. She is an alumna of Temple University in Philadelphia and lives in the city with her partner and two spoiled dogs.